Unloading used games may soon be a thing of the past, but in the meantime there are still ways to parlay an old game into cash for a new one.

Unloading used games may soon be a thing of the past, but in the meantime there are still ways to parlay an old game into cash for a new one. (eBay / April 19, 2012)

Even if the rumors about the next-generation consoles not supporting used games are false, we appear to be entering a problematic stage in physical videogame media. The growing ease of digital distribution as well as mandatory online passes and DRM have made it increasingly challenging for the secondary games market.

While buying and selling used games is still a perfectly viable option, it looks like publishers and consumers will begin to face a lot of the same challenges that music and movies have over the last decade and half. As digital distribution starts to get easier (as well as piracy), buying and selling used media has become a more difficult proposition.

In the meantime, you should consider the next year or two a time to relish in every opportunity to recoup your investment in any games you have. Here are a couple approaches to console game ownership to consider, depending on your budget and how much you crave variety and timeliness in your gaming. Our figures are based on wanting to play about 20 different games in a given year.

GameFly subscription
Cost: $300 per year
Variety: High
New Releases: Medium
Effort Required: Low

The “Netflix of video games” has made serious strides in its service since being founded almost ten years ago. Still, if you’re into playing games right when they come out, it can be a real crapshoot. Particularly if it’s a popular new release, you’ll almost assuredly be sent something lower in your queue first. The major upside to GameFly is that the shipping times have improved to the point that you can get through quite a few games in a month, even if you have the one or two game plan, which runs at $23. GameFly often runs promotions with a reduced-rate first month for new members, but you’re also going to drop a little money on any title that requires an online pass. There’s also no fuss in having to list or trade-in games, because you don’t own them. GameFly has also started to offer free-to-play PC games for members, a la Netflix’s Watch Instantly feature.

Redbox
Cost: $300 per year
Variety: Low
New Releases: Medium
Effort Required: Medium

You might think of Redbox as the machine that rents you Jason Statham movies, but they have made a small inroad into the old practice of nightly video game rentals. For about two bucks a night, you can take home a game, have you fun with it, and drop it back in the box to retrieve a new game. Depending on how long you like to spend with your games, using this method could be much pricier (or even cheaper) than our calculations. The online pre-reservation system makes it easy to verify the game you want is there, as well as finding he kiosk that has the best game selection. Redbox also floats out promo codes from time-to-time. As with any game rental, you’ll need an online pass for a number of games and the selection you want isn’t always going to be there. Plus, there’s the whole leaving the house thing.

The Old-Fashioned Method
Cost: $650 per year
Variety: Medium
New Releases: High
Effort Required: High

This model is simple but pricey, and is probably best reserved for the true hardcore gamer. You buy your new releases at full price, the day they come out or whenever else you want them. Then, if your system is cooperative and you are careful, you keep your games in great condition to trade in for more games or cash. You can expect a max of a 40% return on investment if you have a popular game that you trade in great condition not too long after release. If you hang on to your games for too long, you’re risking getting less than $10 for a game that originally cost you $50. The upside is if you love a game and know you’ll be playing it for years, you can simply keep it on yourself. You might also catch a financial break by paying attention to Amazon deals for pre-ordering games, as well as trade-in bonuses at GameStop. Because you’re investing in a game each time, you may also end up getting to sample a smaller variety of games than you’d be able to with a GameFly membership.

The Online Trader
Cost: $600
Variety: Medium
New Releases: Medium
Effort Required: Medium

A new-wave version of the old-fashioned method, this economic model is again predicated on getting the games you want, when you want. The trick here is to be aggressive with trading in games and keeping them in good shape. Just like a used car, as soon as you crack the cellophane on your game, it starts to decrease in value. If you haven’t touched a game in a week, time to cash it in for something else. Amazon offers direct and immediate trade-ins that also include free UPS shipping, which usually makes it a better value than listing on eBay and dealing with shipping and eBay/PayPal fees. The bonus here is that the money goes back to your general Amazon account, so if you find yourself needing something other than a game, you’re putting it toward that new garden hose.